Bell Beaker/early Late Neolithic (NOT Corded Ware/Battle Axe) identified as forming the Pre-Germanic community in Scandinavia

copper-age-late-bell-beaker

I wrote recently about the newly created Indo-European Corded Ware Theory group, which represents today the last dying effort to sustain the outdated model of the ‘Kurgan peoples’.

Archaeology and Linguistics (like Genetics) keeps slowly but relentlessly rejecting all the Kurgan model‘s foundations, safe for the steppe origin of Indo-European expansion.

The book Language and Prehistory of the Indo-European Peoples. A Cross-Disciplinary perspective. Eds. A. Hyllested, B.N. Whitehead, Th. Olander and B. Anette. Copenhagen Studies in Indo-European. Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen, has been recently published (December 2017).

In it, Christopher Prescott contributes to the history of Indo-European migrations to Scandinavia and the formation of a common Nordic language, ancestral to Proto-Germanic.

A draft of his chapter is downloadable in Academia.edu: Dramatic beginnings of Norway’s history? Archaeology and Indo-Europeanization.

Here are some excerpts from the text:

Thus archaeology can deal with the question of Indo-Europeans through material culture, and archaeology can contribute to unraveling the events leading up to the fact that Indo-European languages were spread from the Indian Ocean to the northwestern European Arctic in pre- and proto-history. In 1995, Prescott and Walderhaug tentatively argued that a dramatic transformation took place in Norway around the Late Neolithic (2350 BCE), and that the swift nature of this transition was tied to the initial Indo-Europeanization of southern and coastal Norway, at least to Trøndelag and perhaps as far north as Troms. Although this interpretation cannot be “proven” in any positivist sense of the word (though aDNA and isotope studies have added a new layer of relevant data), in light of the last ten years of research and excavations, it is has become an increasingly reasonable hypothesis (e.g., Engedal 2002, Fari 2006, Håland and Håland 2000, Kristiansen 2004, Melheim 2006, Østmo 1996, also Kvalø 2007, Larsson 1997).

(…)

The Late Neolithic transformation gives rise to a cultural platform where most of southerly Norway is incorporated into the Nordic sphere. Interaction is no longer over borders, rather within a common cultural arena. Locally, the cultural institutions provide a base for the continued dynamic development through the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age. On a larger geographic and historical scale, incorporation into this field of interaction opens even the most peripheral parts of southern Norway to the streams of culture and events that shape Europe’s Bronze Age history, for example those originating from within Unetice, Tumulus Culture, Urnfeld and Hallstatt.

(…)

Changes in Scandinavia Norway are linked to wider transformations in Europe. Culturally, both Corded Ware Battle Axe and the Bell Beaker are important referential easterly and westerly European cultural horizons. Both these horizons affect and transform Northern Europe, so developments in Norway are not isolated affairs. Needless to say, though often regarded as Indo-European, the processes leading to and the affect of these cultural horizons is discussed for other parts of Europe as well (Mallory 1989:243ff).

Though there are reasonable arguments to assign both Corded Ware groups and bell Beaker groups Indo-European affiliations, the Corded Ware/Battle Axe horizon did not transform large parts of the Scandinavian Peninsula, nor can this horizon be identifies as the source of the practices, forms and institutions that characterize the ensuing Late Neolithic and Bronze Age. The Bell Beaker/early Late Neolithic, however, represents a source and beginning of these institution and practices, exhibits continuity to the following metal age periods and integrated most of Northern Europe’s Nordic region into a set of interaction fields. This happened around 2400 BCE, at the MNB to LN transition.

Though much is tentative and conjecture, multiple sources indicate that ideology, cosmology, myths social organization and probably language were Indo-European in the Bronze Age, and the development of the Bronze Age is rooted in the preceding Late Neolithic. Though the evidence also indicates that the initial Indo-European encounters, indeed “colliding worlds”, were probably experienced in the Middle Neolithic B, the archaeological record points to the time around transition to the Late Neolithic as the chronologically defining threshold for the entrenchment of an Indo-European platform throughout what would become the Nordic Bronze Age region in Norway. The Late Neolithic is therefore the most likely candidate for the introduction of the foundation for economic, social and ideological institutions, that is Giddens’ “deeply layered structure[s]”, that are fundamental to the development of the region’s identities, also ethnic, in the millennia to come.

early-bronze-age-europe
Diachronic map of migrations in Europe ca. 2250-1750 BC, after the Bell Beaker invasion, the most likely time of formation of a common Nordic language, ancestor of Proto-Germanic.

Mind you, not that these actual archaeological and linguistic models will deter anyone from supporting tentative sketches of a fictional ‘kurgan people’ that became outdated almost 60 years ago now – especially if they fit certain desires of ancestral ethnolinguistic identification with modern populations…

Related:

  • Indo-European demic diffusion model, 3rd edition (revised October 2017)
  • The renewed ‘Kurgan model’ of Kristian Kristiansen and the Danish school: “The Indo-European Corded Ware Theory”
  • Globular Amphora not linked to Pontic steppe migrants – more data against Kristiansen’s Kurgan model of Indo-European expansion
  • Correlation does not mean causation: the damage of the ‘Yamnaya ancestral component’, and the ‘Future America’ hypothesis
  • New Ukraine Eneolithic sample from late Sredni Stog, near homeland of the Corded Ware culture
  • Something is very wrong with models based on the so-called ‘steppe admixture’ – and archaeologists are catching up
  • Germanic–Balto-Slavic and Satem (‘Indo-Slavonic’) dialect revisionism by amateur geneticists, or why R1a lineages *must* have spoken Proto-Indo-European
  • Heyd, Mallory, and Prescott were right about Bell Beakers
  • Coexistence of two different populations in Gotland during the Middle Neolithic

    neolithic

    New insights on cultural dualism and population structure in the Middle Neolithic Funnel Beaker culture on the island of Gotland, by Fraser et al., in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2017).

    Abstract (emphasis mine):

    In recent years it has been shown that the Neolithization of Europe was partly driven by migration of farming groups admixing with local hunter-gatherer groups as they dispersed across the continent. However, little research has been done on the cultural duality of contemporaneous foragers and farming populations in the same region. Here we investigate the demographic history of the Funnel Beaker culture [Trichterbecherkultur or TRB, c. 4000–2800 cal BCE], and the sub-Neolithic Pitted Ware culture complex [PWC, c. 3300–2300 cal BCE] during the Nordic Middle Neolithic period on the island of Gotland, Sweden. We use a multidisciplinary approach to investigate individuals buried in the Ansarve dolmen, the only confirmed TRB burial on the island. We present new radiocarbon dating, isotopic analyses for diet and mobility, and mitochondrial DNA haplogroup data to infer maternal inheritance. We also present a new Sr-baseline of 0.71208 ± 0.0016 for the local isotope variation. We compare and discuss our findings together with that of contemporaneous populations in Sweden and the North European mainland.

    The radiocarbon dating and Strontium isotopic ratios show that the dolmen was used between c. 3300–2700 cal BCE by a population which displayed local Sr-signals. Mitochondrial data show that the individuals buried in the Ansarve dolmen had maternal genetic affinity to that of other Early and Middle Neolithic farming cultures in Europe, distinct from that of the contemporaneous PWC on the island. Furthermore, they exhibited a strict terrestrial and/or slightly varied diet in contrast to the strict marine diet of the PWC. The findings indicate that two different contemporary groups coexisted on the same island for several hundred years with separate cultural identity, lifestyles, as well as dietary patterns.

    gotland-funnel-beaker-culture
    “Map indicating distribution of TRB-North group megalithic tombs (Blomqvist, 1989; Midgley, 2008; Sjögren, 2003; Tilley, 1999) and PWC areas (Larsson, 2009) modified from (Malmström et al., 2009). Swedish megalithic TRB burial sites included in the analyses: 1. Gökhem passage grave, Falköping, Västergötland, 2. Alvastra dolmen, Östergötland, 3. Mysinge passage grave, Resmo, Öland, 4. Ansarve dolmen, Tofta, Gotland, and 5. the Ostorf TRB burial ground, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.”

    If you are interested in knowing more details about settlements on the island, I recommend you to read Early Holocene human population events on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea (9200-3800 cal. BP), by Jan Apel, downloadable here.

    It is important to remember cases like this one when speaking about the steppe as representing a single culture and people, speaking the same language, no matter the period in question and the archaeological cultures involved…

    Related:

    Featured image: Diachronic map of Early Neolithic migrations ca. 5000-4000 BC.

    Related:

    Migration vs. Acculturation models for Aegean Neolithic in Genetics — still depending strongly on Archaeology

    aegean-neolithic-anatolia

    Recent paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Archaeogenomic analysis of the first steps of Neolithization in Anatolia and the Aegean, by Kılınç et al. (2017).

    Abstract:

    The Neolithic transition in west Eurasia occurred in two main steps: the gradual development of sedentism and plant cultivation in the Near East and the subsequent spread of Neolithic cultures into the Aegean and across Europe after 7000 cal BCE. Here, we use published ancient genomes to investigate gene flow events in west Eurasia during the Neolithic transition. We confirm that the Early Neolithic central Anatolians in the ninth millennium BCE were probably descendants of local hunter–gatherers, rather than immigrants from the Levant or Iran. We further study the emergence of post-7000 cal BCE north Aegean Neolithic communities. Although Aegean farmers have frequently been assumed to be colonists originating from either central Anatolia or from the Levant, our findings raise alternative possibilities: north Aegean Neolithic populations may have been the product of multiple westward migrations, including south Anatolian emigrants, or they may have been descendants of local Aegean Mesolithic groups who adopted farming. These scenarios are consistent with the diversity of material cultures among Aegean Neolithic communities and the inheritance of local forager know-how. The demographic and cultural dynamics behind the earliest spread of Neolithic culture in the Aegean could therefore be distinct from the subsequent Neolithization of mainland Europe.

    The analysis of the paper highlights two points regarding the process of Neolithisation in the Aegean, which is essential to ascertain the impact of later Indo-European migrations of Proto-Anatolian and Proto-Greek and other Palaeo-Balkan speakers(texts partially taken verbatim from the paper):

    • The observation that the two central Anatolian populations cluster together to the exclusion of Neolithic populations of south Levant or of Iran restates the conclusion that farming in central Anatolia in the PPN was established by local groups instead of immigrants, which is consistent with the described cultural continuity between central Anatolian Epipalaeolithic and Aceramic communities. This reiterates the earlier conclusion that the early Neolithisation in the primary zone was largely a process of cultural interaction instead of gene flow.
    aegean-neolithic-pca
    Principal component analysis (PCA) with modern and ancient genomes. The eigenvectors were calculated using 50 modern west Eurasian populations, onto which genome data from ancient individuals were projected. The gray circles highlight the four ancient gene pools of west Eurasia. Modern-day individuals are shown as gray points. In the Near East, Pre-Neolithic (Epipaleolithic/Mesolithic) and Neolithic individuals genetically cluster by geography rather than by cultural context. For instance, Neolithic individuals of Anatolia cluster to the exclusion of individuals from the Levant or Iran). In Europe, genetic clustering reflects cultural context but not geography: European early Neolithic individuals are genetically distinct from European pre-Neolithic individuals but tightly cluster with Anatolians. PPN: Pre-Pottery/Aceramic Neolithic, PN: Pottery Neolithic, Tepecik: Tepecik-Çiftlik (electronic supplementary material, table S1 lists the number of SNPs per ancient individual).
    • The realisation that there are still two possibilities regarding the question of whether Aegean Neolithisation (post-7000 cal BC) involved similar acculturation processes, or was driven by migration similar to Neolithisation in mainland Europe — a long-standing debate in Archaeology:
      1. Migration from Anatolia to the Aegean: the Aegean Neolithisation must have involved replacement of a local, WHG-related Mesolithic population by incoming easterners. Central Anatolia or south Anatolia / north Levant (of which there is no data) are potential origins of the components observed. Notably, the north Aegeans – Revenia (ca. 6438-6264 BC) and Barcın (ca. 6500-6200 BC) – show higher diversity than the central Anatolians, and the population size of Aegeans was larger than that of central Anatolians. The lack of WHG in later samples indicates that they must have been fully replaced by the eastern migrant farmers.
      2. Adoption of Neolithic elements by local foragers: Alternatively, the Aegean coast Mesolithic populations may have been part of the Anatolian-related gene pool that occupied the Aegean seaboard during the Early Holocene, in an “out-of-the-Aegean hypothesis. Following the LGM, Aegean emigrants would have dispersed into central Anatolia and established populations that eventually gave rise to the local Epipalaeolithic and later Neolithic communities, in line with the earliest direct evidence for human presence in central Anatolia ca 14 000 cal BCE
    • On the archaeological evidence (excerpt):

      Instead of a single-sourced colonization process, the Aegean Neolithization may thus have flourished upon already existing coastal and interior interaction networks connecting Aegean foragers with the Levantine and central Anatolian PPN populations, and involved multiple cultural interaction events from its early steps onward [16,20,64,74]. This wide diversity of cultural sources and the potential role of local populations in Neolithic development may set apart Aegean Neolithization from that in mainland Europe. While Mesolithic Aegean genetic data are awaited to fully resolve this issue, researchers should be aware of the possibility that the initial emergence of the Neolithic elements in the Aegean, at least in the north Aegean, involved cultural and demographic dynamics different than those in European Neolithization.

      Featured image, from the article: “Summary of the data analyzed in this study. (a) Map of west Eurasia showing the geographical locations and (b) timeline showing the time period (years BCE) of ancient individuals investigated in the study. Blue circles: individuals from pre-Neolithic context; red triangles: individuals from Neolithic contexts”.

      Related:

    Correlation does not mean causation: the damage of the ‘Yamnaya ancestral component’, and the ‘Future American’ hypothesis

    america-languages-lowlandic

    Human ancestry can only help solve anthropological questions by using all anthropological disciplines involved. I have said that many times in this blog.

    Correlation does not mean causation

    Really, it does not.

    You might think the tenet ‘correlation does not mean causation‘ must be evident at this point in Statistics, and it must also be for all those using statistical methods in their research. But it is sadly not so. A lot of researchers just look for correlation, and derive conclusions – without even an initial sound hypothesis to be contrasted… You can judge for yourself, e.g. reading the many instances of this complaint in recent publications of Biomedical and Social Sciences, on the interesting blog Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.

    In anthropological questions regarding Indo-European studies there is an added handicap: not taking correlation to mean causation does also mean – to avoid at least the most obvious confounders – taking into account the multiple linguistic and archaeological data that are available right now, to explain the expansion of Indo-European languages.

    You might also believe that international researchers in Human Evolutionary Biology – after all, this is essentially a biomedical discipline – are acquainted with statistical methods and their problems when applied to their field. And that scientific journals – and especially those with the highest impact factors, like Nature, Science, or PNAS – have professional, careful reviewers who would never accept papers that equal correlation with causation, especially when Social Sciences are involved (because this alone might make errors grow exponentially…). Sadly, this is obviously not so, either.

    https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/correlation.png

    The ‘Yamnaya component’ concept and its damage

    From Allentoft et al. (2015), emphasis is mine:

    Both studies [Haak et al. (2015) and this one] found a genetic affinity between samples from a central European culture known as Corded Ware, which existed from around 2500 bc, and samples from the earlier Yamnaya steppe culture. This similarity between distant populations is best explained by a substantial westward expansion of the Yamnaya or their close relatives into central Europe (Fig. 1b). Such an expansion is consistent with the steppe hypothesis, which argues that Corded Ware cultures were a conduit for the dispersal of Indo-European languages into Europe.

    More interesting than these vague words – and the short, almost invisible suggestion that Yamna may not be exactly the population behind Corded Ware peoples – are the maps that illustrated in Nature their risky hypothesis: they called it “steppe hypothesis“, like that (in general terms), as if everyone defending a steppe origin for Proto-Indo-European would support such a model, when they actually referred to the specific hypothesis of one of their authors (Kristiansen), one of the few archaeologists who keep Gimbutas’ concept of the ‘Kurgan peoples’ alive, based on the Corded Ware culture:

    Allentoft Corded Ware
    Allentoft et al. (2015): “They conclude that the Corded Ware culture of central Europe had ancestry from the Yamnaya. Allentoft et al. also show that the Afanasievo culture to the east is related to the Yamnaya, and that the Sintashta and Andronovo cultures had ancestry from the Corded Ware. Arrows indicate migrations — those from the Corded Ware reflect the evidence that people of this archaeological culture (or their relatives) were responsible for the spreading of Indo-European languages. All coloured boundaries are approximate.”

    In many publications that followed, the trend has been to reproduce this graphical model, by asserting (or implying) that Bell Beaker peoples were the result of subsequent Corded Ware migrations, and indeed that Corded Ware peoples migrated from the Yamna culture, and were thus the vector of expansion for Indo-European languages in Europe.

    All of this is being proven wrong, as I predicted: see Mathieson et al. (2017) and Olalde et al. (2017) for recently studied samples with ‘steppe component’, older than (and unrelated to) the Yamna culture. However, no retraction (or correction, whatever) has been published to date about the concept of the ‘Yamnaya ancestry expansion’, and its consequences.

    We shall see then just a rather surreptitious shift in terminology from ‘Yamnaya’ to ‘steppe’ component, to adapt to the new data – i.e. some damage control while the ship of ‘Yamnaya ancestry’ capsizes – but little else. “Earlier ‘Yamnaya ancestry’, you say? Just, you know, let’s call it ‘steppe ancestry’ and shift the expansion of Indo-European languages to one or two thousand years earlier, and done!”

    The damage of this post-truth genetics is already done: we will see the unending distribution on the Internet in general, and on social networks in particular, of these grandiose conclusions, of far-fetched Indo-European migration models that include the Corded Ware culture, of simplistic maps with apparently harmless ‘arrows of migration’ (like the above) representing fictional population movements suggesting nonexistent dialectal branches.

    You might be one of those sceptics wary of so many boring statistical rules: “But it’s a safe reasoning: Yamanaya samples have an ‘ancestral component’ that is found elevated in Corded Ware samples, and less so in Bell Beaker samples, and PCA showed a similar result…so the migration model Yamnaya -> Corded Ware -> Bell Beaker is a priori correct, right?”

    The ‘Future American’ hypothesis

    Let me illustrate this attractive “Correlation = Causation” argument, using it to solve the problem of Future American languages.

    Suppose we live in a future post-apocalyptic world ca. 3500 AD, with no surviving historical records before 3000 AD. None. Just investigation of cultures and their relationship by Archaeology, proto-languages reconstructed and language families identified by Linguistics, etc.

    We have thus Future Germanic and Future Romance as the only language families spoken in Future Western Europe and in the Future Americas, in a distribution similar to the present day*, and we have certain somehow related archaeologically-defined cultures on both sides of the Atlantic, like Briton, Iberian, Norman, or Lowlandish, although their distribution remains partly undefined in time and space.

    * If you are really curious about this scenario, you can read about the potential evolution of a Future North-American language.

    But what languages did the ancestors of Future Americans speak, and who spread them? That question remains far from being settled by our future researchers, in spite of the solidest linguistic and migration models (talking mainly about Briton and Iberian cultures): too many authorities out there questioning them, fighting to impose their own pet theories.

    Suddenly, the newly developed field of Human Ancestry comes to save the day. So let’s say we have this map of ancient samples recovered (dated from, say, the 6th to the 18th century AD), and our study is centered on the newly described “Western European” component (a precise combination of, say, WHG+steppe), which peaks in early samples from the Low Lands – hence we call it, quite daringly, “Lowlandic component“.

    Our group is keen to demonstrate that the ancient Lowlandic culture described in Archaeology (marked especially by the worldwide distribution of tulips among other traits) is the origin of Western European and American languages… Now, let’s reach conclusions about migrations in the Middle Ages!

    america-languages-lowlandic
    ‘Future American’ hypothesis. Migration routes in Western Europe and the Americas during the Middle Ages, based on the ‘Lowlandic component’ (Click to open higher quality version).

    PCA shows that South-West European samples cluster closely to some North-West European samples, and that some late South American samples available cluster at some distance from North American samples – nearer to a native component represented by two individuals with 0% Lowlandic ancestry and a different cluster in PCA. And some North-American samples cluster quite closely to North-West European samples.

    Based on the decrease in ‘Lowlandic component’ in the different samples and on PCA, we conclude that Lowlandic peoples (“or their close relatives”) must have migrated at the same time to North America, South America (or potentially from North America to South America?) as well as western, central, and northern Europe. Both migration events must have happened roughly at the same time, in part because both distinct language families appear in a north-south distribution, and Proto-Lowlandic must be (according to Genetics) the ancestor of both, Proto-Future-Germanic and Proto-Future-Romance.

    That makes a lot of sense! A huge Lowlandic pressure for migration, you see. Push-pull mechanisms and stuff. A Lowlandic Empire probably (scattered remains are found everywhere)! And, judging by the presence of the ‘Lowlandic component’ in Future East Europe from the Elbe to the Vistula, maybe Lowlandic peoples spread Proto-Slavic, too! We can even date the common Lowlandic-Slavic proto-language this way! So many groundbreaking conclusions!

    Future scholars supporting the Lowlandic homeland are on fire; they can’t get enough of publishing papers on the subject. “Two different Future American language families with cultural origins in Britain and Iberia, my ass! Because genetics.”

    And don’t forget the future people of haplogroup R1b-U106 and high Lowlandic component: Wow, they are the heirs of those who expanded Future Germanic and Future Romance languages everywhere, aren’t they? How proud they must be. And who wouldn’t want to have these tall, blond, blue-eyed Lowlanders as their forefathers? Personalised genetic analysis is selling like crazy: “let’s know our Lowlandic percentage!”. Everyone is happy, colourful maps with lots of arrows and shit…

    But – your future you might ask in awe, seeing that this doesn’t sound quite right, based on your basic archaeological and linguistic knowledge:

    • What about specific models of migration proposed to date? The solidest ones, not just anyone that seems to fit?
    • What about the dialectal classification of languages? The mainstream ones, not those that are compatible with this interpretation?
    • What about archaeological cultures to which individual samples belonged?
    • What about the actual dates of each sample? And how this date relates to the state of the culture to which it belongs?
    • What about the haplogroups, and the actual subclade of each haplogroup?
    • What about the territories, cultures, and dates not sampled, could they change this interpretation in light of known archaeological models?
    • And what about the actual origin of that ancestral component they so frivolously named? Dit it really appear ex nihilo in the Low Lands, and expanded from it?

    “Who cares! This new data is sooo coool… And it proves what we wanted, what a coincidence! And it’s numbers, mate! Numbers don’t lie.”

     
    No, numbers don’t lie. But people do.

    Correlation is fun, isn’t it?

     

    Related:

    Richard Dawkins and the Brights’ supposed ‘Atheism’: renewed antireligious and antitheist hatred against the most basic human rights

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1948, arising directly from the experience of the Second World War. It represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled.

    Article 1
    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

    Religion SymbolsArticle 2
    Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

    Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

    First of all, I cannot be considered a religious person. I shouldn’t need to say that, but since the following text is an anti-antireligion one, I guess most religious and antireligious people would like me to clarify this point. I cannot be classified as an atheist either, but rather as an agnostic — I think that the truth value of certain claims (particularly metaphysical claims regarding theology, afterlife or the existence of deities, or even ultimate reality) is unknown and inherently impossible to prove or disprove.

    To sum up my ‘philosophy’, I just don’t care for my real life – if there’s something or ‘somebody’ thereafter, great; if there isn’t, great, too. I am interested in the Bible or any other religious text, just as I am interested in Marxist philosophy, in the Hinduist Śruti as in modern Social-Democratic statements. Just to “cultivate” myself in the so-called culture studies, to know what others think and believe.

    In fact, when confronted with dogmatic religious or antitheist people, I often see just daring (and arrogant) ignorance. Like the slogan of the so-called ‘Atheist’ Bus, “there’s probably no god”, as if that probability could be measured… Or like the Flying-Spaghetti-Monster-joke, now frequently used in social networks against anyone who dares to say he believes in something. As Astrophysicist Martin Rees has said about Dawkins’ attack on mainstream religion, that criticism is unhelpful, because “such questions lie beyond science”. I would have said such questions simply lie outside science.

    My girlfriend’s sister bought me the book God Delusion (in Spanish) for my birthday, so that I could read some intelligent criticism of religion, because she knows how I usually criticise catholic “scientific theses” on life’s beginning and end (abortion, euthanasia, etc.) and the like. After reading some interesting pages, I looked for Dawkins in the net, and I found that preposterous attitude of him and his “Brights”, who have substituted religious dogma with a new (old) antitheist dogma – history repeating itself, a football match involving people’s opinions. How nice.

    I agree with Dawkins that atheists should be proud, not apologetic, because social atheism is evidence of a healthy, independent mind, and that education and consciousness-raising are the primary tools in opposing religious dogma and indoctrination. And I could even personally agree with his disrespectful sentence “many of us [see] religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we [think], if people [need] a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm?“. But the following assertion is logical nonsense and clearly supports antireligious hatred:

    September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!

    Please note that thorough argument involving “9/11” and insecurity to justify everything else. Dawkins was maybe inspired by this Family Guy scene?

    It is logical that righteous and intelligent people – like Dawkins and many well-minded atheists – tend to be aggressive and irrational dogmatics when confronted with aggression and irrationality from dogmatic religious people. It happens often in dialectics, and it’s hardly avoidable. But that’s not a valid reason to maintain and even lead that confrontation into an open war (first verbal, then who knows), supporting an anticlerical, antireligious and antitheist atheism. It should always be human rights and tolerance against tiranny and injustices, not opinions against opinions.

    In this new open war of Dawkins and his “Brights” (akin to the state atheism of some dictatorships), antitheism is carefully disguised as the universalism opposed to cultural relativism, which is an argument frequently used by those who wield power in cultures (not religions) which commit human rights abuses. The 2005 World Summit, a follow-up summit meeting to the United Nations’ 2000 Millennium Summit, reaffirmed the international community’s adherence to this principle:

    The universal nature of human rights and freedoms is beyond question

    It is a principle valid against any kind of human rights abuses, whether justifed by religion or antireligion.

    I could write a book myselft trying to discuss Richard Dawkins’ arguments about religion being socially dangerous, but he convinced me it is completely unnecessary. As Mr. Dawkins put it (when confronted by Alister McGrath with the fact that he is “ignorant” of Christian theology), “do you have to read up on leprechology before disbelieving in leprechauns?“. Of course not. And you certainly don’t have to read up on antitheist hate propaganda before disbelieving in antitheist hatred.

    I don’t think this post (or any possible writing) will change the mind of those who have already taken sides – as encouraged by Mr. Dawkins – to make of opinion an easier black-or-white, right-or-wrong aspect, but I’ll finnish it with some similar examples. Let’s suppose that I don’t feel nor believe in “love“. For me what others describe as “love” is just another voluntary exchange, as voluntary as buying bread to eat, or reading a book to learn. However, a lot of people ‘believe’ in it (whatever that means); and in their opinion, it is probably one of the most important aspects of their lifes.

    So even if I am “agnostic” in that respect – of the meaning and existence of such thing as “love” -, as I am agnostic regarding the meaning and existence of the afterlife and god in which a lot of people (need to?) believe, I’m respectful and consider them personal opinions – just like the need of atheists in believing there is no god. But I could just as well begin my own “school of Brights”, by igniting flames about “love-believers” being dangerous ignorants, asserting that love is incompatible with (and harms) science, writing books dismissing love and lovers, creating a “Foundation for a Rational Life”, supporting the “flying-spaghetti-feeling-joke”, etc., and making disrespectful statements like:

    Many of us saw love as harmless nonsense. Belief in love might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? Domestic violence and especially violence against women changed all that. Love is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of feelings. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects love from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!

    Or, let’s talk about political ideas and democracy:

    Many of us saw politics as harmless nonsense. Political ideas might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? Modern wars have changed all that. Politics is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of ideas. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects freedom of opinion from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!

    Or, we could also try to ban literature using Dawkins’ thorough reflexion, equally valid either to prohibit communist writings, or to support the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia:

    Many of us saw literature as harmless nonsense. The art of written works might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? Capitalism / Communism changed all that. Literature is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of ideas. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects literature from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!

    Mr. Dawkins and well-minded friends: life should be a “damned respectful” football match, it is a complex game and it cannot be made easier with an either-with-me-or-against-me-type of philosophy. If you fight hooliganism with hooliganism, entering the dogmatic game, you can turn life into an open (and unnecessary) battlefield. It is really sad to see how modern religious people struggle to get involved with each other and respect universal rights, while many modern atheists are turning into arrogant, intolerant dogmatic believers in the non-existence of god and the evil nature of religion…

    Addition – 12 Feb 2009: With Darwin’s anniversary, Spanish American biologist and pihilosopher Francisco J. Ayala is participating in a conference about evolution and creationism, and he has been interviewed, making some interesting remarks about his (in his own words) good friend Dawkins:

    The hypothesis of God
    Luis Alfonso Gámez – “After Darwin, the hypothesis that a superior being designed the world is untenable. If one believes in God, he has to do it because of other reasons, but not because he needs it to explain the world”, says Richard Dawkins.

    Francisco J. Ayala – I agree with him. You don’t need the hypothesis of God to explain the world. There are people who need the hypothesis of God to have a religious vision [of life], to give sense to their lives. A year ago, Richard Dawkins and I discussed this in the Salk Institute. I told him: “Why do you want to take the hope away from 80% or 90% of humans who have a miserable life and see in religion their only support?”. He answered that we must begin to teach Humanity so that people gradually find the justification of their existence and their values in science, and he expects that in 50 years humans can live governed by the rational principles of science. I answered him: “If you believe that the 8.000 or 10.000 million people that will be then are going to accept the rational principles of science to explain their existence, you probably also believe in the Fairy Godmother and the Magi“. I don’t know why anyone should struggle to make people who need to believe stop believing. There are a lot of Christian, Jew and Muslim theologues who accept evolution and also believe that their theology is better explained with it. It is a school called process theology.

    Answering Ayala’s question about why anyone would care about making others stop believing, I guess the answer lies in the public attention, prizes, interviews, book copies sold, donations, etc. he receives by igniting such flames against beliefs (different than his there-is-no-god belief, of course). Just like prominent creationists (as Michael Behe or William A. Dembski) receive support from a lot of believers, he enjoys having his piece of cake from atheists in this global pie of intolerance.

    How many words do we use in daily speech? A new study from the Royal Spanish Academy on language acquisition

    According to the members of the Royal Spanish Academy (the Real Academia Española), humanities have experienced a decrease in importance for younger generations, English is becoming predominant, language in general is poorer in the Media and in all public speeches, classical languages disappear, people play less attention to reading, and computer terms are invading everything.

    All involved in the research agree that language cannot be confined to any artificial limits, that it is mutable, it evolves and changes. However, they warn: it can also get sick and degrade. The mean Spaniard uses generally no more than 1000 words, and only the most educated individuals reach 5000 common words. Some young people use only 240 words daily.

    Linguists, paedagogues and psychologists say those who write correctly demonstrate they’ve had an adecuate education, they’ve read books and they’ve exercized their minds. Thanks to that mental exercise we can achieve more elevated stages of reasoning and culture. Those who cannot understand something as basic as his own natural language will not achieve a big progress in his intellectual life, they assure.

    Now, regarding those numbers and the concept behind the output of that study: would you say learning mixed conlangs like Esperanto – whose supposed benefits are precisely the ease of use, by taking the most common and simplest European vocabulary – could improve that worsening situation? Or do you think it’s better for European culture‘s sake to learn the ancient language from which Old Latin, Gaulish, Old Norse or Old Slavonic derived? It is probably not the main reason to adopt Europe’s Indo-European as the official language of the European Union, but it is certainly another great reason to learn it without being compelled to…

    Source: Terra; read in Menéame